During a recent executive transition, the board identified a new leader to make our non-profit more entrepreneurial. Because of timing around this transition, my one-year anniversary earlier that month came and went without a peep, so I requested a review from my new boss. The new Head Honcho asked why I wanted one, and I felt the earth shudder.
I was at first deeply plagued by the idea of not being acknowledged for my accomplishments, and then I became curious.
Was it only credit driving my desire to go through a cringe-worthy process the butt of editorial humor decades-over?
I have always sort-of enjoyed reviews because I can learn where to improve (don’t get me wrong — hearing criticism is extremely difficult) and be liberated from the stress of guessing about my performance. And if there is an opportunity for my supervisor and me to go through a review process multiple times together, our work relationship has the potential to strengthen.
The new Head Honcho also shook the earth by giving me unexpected feedback twice in casual passing, when I stopped by to discuss other matters. My First Response both times was frustration, largely with being caught off-guard.
Another benefit of annual reviews is that I know exactly when and for how long I will be receiving feedback, so I can mentally prepare. We can assume the person who’s just given the feedback has already prepared, so it’s fair to give the receiving party the same advantage.
After my frustration waned I was surprised to arrive at an appreciation for this new experience (ever heard the old adage “negative attention is better than none”?), and I wanted more.
Susan Peters, Director of HR for General Electric, observed that continuous-over-annual feedback is a millennial thing. She’s absolutely right. Aside from age-old rituals like political elections and Nobel Prize awards, the world no longer waits a year for anything. Updates, pushes, and notifications are a constant stream of feedback awaiting you on your screen of choice whenever you look.
You know how Facebook came up with the famous Like? Feedback. Retweets? Feedback. Yelp? Anyone is subject to feedback at any time.
There have been numerous reports of late describing the annual review’s demise, and I’m officially on the bandwagon. GE, Microsoft, Deloitte, Accenture, SAP, The Gap, Cargill, Juniper, Adobe, and IBM are all reinventing their performance evaluation processes. If we’re trying to make our non-profit more entrepreneurial, why not reinvent ours?
And while we’re reinventing the annual review, let’s just ditch the employee anniversary as well — a practice that pays homage to the outdated valuation of longevity over diversity. (Maybe my jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none complex is evolutionarily adaptive after all…)
This trend toward continuous evaluation has opened up a new business opportunity for Impraise, a company that engages users to deliver feedback on a collaborative, public, 360-degree, mobile platform in real time. Since we’ve now comfortably settled into a new age of real-time feedback, traditional human resources practice is actually just late to the game (again).
If I can personally get past the fear of feedback and tame my fight-or-flight mechanisms triggered by criticism, I could be a champion for demystifying the dreaded evaluation process and exchanging one heavy load for a number of lighter ones.
One of my biggest flaws is defensiveness and I’d welcome an opportunity to soften that reaction I often have. This idea of millennial-style feedback is a great way to take the grandiosity out of being evaluated and make it No Big Deal.
We don’t need to feel ashamed about addressing our weaknesses openly; we only stand to gain compassion and support if we do.